Knicks guard Raymond Felton was arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on Tuesday on charges of Criminal Possession of a Firearm and Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Third Degree.
Here are the answers to five questions I’ve heard you ask regarding Felton’s arrest and the strength of the case against him.
1. How Could Felton be Arrested for Possession of the Gun when his Wife was the one who brought the Gun into the Police Precinct?
Ariane Raymondo-Felton reportedly turned Felton’s gun in to the police through her divorce attorney. While New York has some of the strictest gun possession laws in the country, the law does provide an exception for what’s commonly referred to as “temporary and lawful” or “transitory” possession of a weapon (i.e. finding a gun on the street and taking it straight to the police).
If a finder of fact were to determine that someone like Raymondo-Felton or her lawyer possessed the gun in this case briefly for the purpose of taking the gun to the police, they wouldn’t be criminally liable for possession of a weapon.
Since the purpose behind this exception is to encourage the public to turn in guns the way Raymondo-Felton and her attorney did, neither of them were charged with gun possession here.
2. What’s the Status of Felton’s Case Now?
Felton’s case is what’s called an unindicted felony. In order for the case against Felton to move forward as a felony, prosecutors must present evidence to a grand jury and have that jury vote for an indictment based on the evidence that was presented to them.
Ariane Raymondo-Felton would almost certainly be the key witness in any grand jury presentation that prosecutors may make because her testimony is the strongest link between Felton and the gun at this point. Like Plaxico Burress and other New York defendants, Felton would also have the opportunity to testify before the grand jury if he and his defense team decide he should do so.
3. Will Felton get the Plaxico Burress Treatment in this Case?
There’s a good chance that he won’t. Raymond Felton’s case presents a much more difficult task for prosecutors than Plaxico Burress’s did. Burress was charged possessing a gun that he shot himself in the leg with inside of a nightclub. Prosecutors could easily link that gun to Burress because a) he shot himself with it and b) there were several witnesses who could testify to seeing Burress with the gun.
Felton’s estranged wife is the only known person who can establish that Felton ever possessed this gun right now. If she changes her mind about cooperating in this case or is forced to testify under a grand jury subpoena or material witness warrant, prosecutors would be forced to establish that Felton possessed this gun with the use of circumstantial evidence that can readily be attacked like pictures of Felton with the gun (if they exist) or the gun’s registration information.
Even if Felton’s estranged wife willingly participates in the prosecution, you can be sure that Felton’s lawyers will attack her credibility on the basis of the potential bias she may because of their divorce proceedings. However, it should be noted that Felton’s lawyers would only be able to cross-examine Felton’s wife at trial, and not in the grand jury.
4. How much time does Felton face? Is there any chance of a plea deal?
Felton faces a maximum of seven years in prison on the top count on the criminal complaint, but it’s very premature to discuss potential sentences at this point because prosecutors could always decide to present different charges to the grand jury based on information they learn between now and whenever they choose to make their presentation.
There is a possibility that Felton and his lawyers could decide to workout a pre-indictment plea on lesser charges for Felton, and that may be their intent right now since they decided to waive Felton’s speedy trial rights at arraignment. Generally, prosecutors have 180 days to indict and try someone on felony charges before the case is dismissed. Defense lawyers often choose to waive this right for their clients as a show of good faith in hopes of securing an offer on lesser charges from prosecutors.
5. Why did the Judge issue an Order of Protection against Felton if we don’t know whether he actually threatened his wife with the Gun?
Judges err on the side of caution and almost always issue these kinds of restraining orders against the accused person in domestic cases like this one.
Right now the key witness against Felton is a person he was once in an intimate relationship with. Felton knows where she lives and works, and absent an order of protection he’d have easy access to the State’s main witness. The judge issued the order because she was being pragmatic and covering the court’s own tail, not because she has any bias or prejudice against Felton.